Karena Kalmbach

PhD Candidate, Department of History and Civilization
European University Institute, Florence, Italy

CSTMS Research Unit: Berkeley Program in Science and Technology Studies, Office for the History of Science and Technology
Affiliation period: January 2013 - May 2013



Dissertation Title: CHERNOBYL – TCHERNOBYL: National and Transnational Facets of a Contested 'Truth'. The British and French Debates on the Accident's Impact in Comparative Perspective.

Degrees Master of Research (Department of History and Civilization) :: European University Institute, Florence (2011)
Magister Artium (Master equivalent) in History, Political Science and Communication Science :: Freie Universität Berlin (2009)
Research Areas

Social and Cultural History of the Nuclear Age, History of Science and Technology, Environmental History, and Memory Studies

Karena started her research on Chernobyl in 2008. As a scholar at the École Normale Supérieure Paris, she wrote her master's thesis about the 'French debate on the impact of Chernobyl'; the thesis was later published as a book in 2011 under the title 'Tschernobyl und Frankreich' ('Chernobyl and France'). Currently, as her PhD dissertation, Karena continues her work on Chernobyl and is conducting a comparative study on the debates concerning the health impact of Chernobyl in France, Great Britain and Italy. Her research deals with the question of how national nuclear politics have influenced the debate on the health effects of the accident in the respective countries (and vice versa) and how the commemoration of the accident has been used to underpin political arguments. At the same time, the comparative perspective applied sheds light on the importance of underlying structures such as national nuclear politics, elite and expert culture, environmentalism, as well as on the role of individual agency. These factors condition the emergence of a specific narrative of the accident within a specific discursive field, and furthermore, determine the meaning which is attributed to 'Chernobyl'. Karena pays special attention to the anniversaries of the accident in 1996 and 2006 because of the political implications that are tied to the commemoration of Chernobyl. For her, the case of Chernobyl is of particular significance as the question ‘What was (or is) Chernobyl?’ directly impacts current questions regarding (nuclear) energy and environmental policies.

Selected Publications:

Tschernobyl und Frankreich. Die Debatte um die Auswirkungen des Reaktorunfalls im Kontext der französischen Atompolitik und Elitenkultur, Frankfurt, 2011.

Von Strahlen und Grenzen: Tschernobyl als nationaler und transnationaler Erinnerungsort, in: Frank Uekötter (Ed), Ökologische Erinnerungsorte, Göttingen, 2013 (forthcoming).

Frankreich nach Tschernobyl – Eine Rezeptionsgeschichte zwischen „Nicht-Ereignis“ und „Apokalypse“, in: Melanie Arndt (Ed), 'Anthropologischer Schock' nach Tschernobyl? Politik und Gesellschaft nach der Katastrophe, Wien / Köln, 2013 (forthcoming).

Selected Conference Papers in 2012:

Les mémoires de la catastrophe de Tchernobyl (together with Tatiana Kasperski), in: Nucléaire: du risque de la desinformation au risque communicationnel, CNRS Paris, 6 December 2012.

Meanings of a disaster. The contested ‘truth’ about Chernobyl, in: Workshop 'Historical and Contemporary Studies of Disasters: Placing Chernobyl, 9/11, Katrina, Deepwater Horizon, Fukushima and Other Events in Historical and Comparative Perspective', SHOT 2012 Copenhagen, Copenhagen Business School, 7 October 2012.

The IAEA and the Debate on the Health Effects of Chernobyl, in: United Atoms in a Divided World. The Early History of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Universität Wien, 16-18 September 2012.

Constructing and deconstructing an historical event: the case of 'Chernobyl', in: Nuclear International Research Group (NIRG) Workshop: The Nuclear Industry in the 21st Century: How We Got Here, University of Toronto, 21-22 April 2012.

Tschernobyl in Westeuropa: Überlegungen zu einer vergleichs- und transfergeschichtlichen Studie zu den Fallbeispielen Frankreich, Italien und Großbritannien, in: In Bewegung. Neue Geschichten der Umweltbewegungen, Rachel Carson Center München, 01-03 March 2012.

last updated: November 26th, 2013